Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 5th March 2020
I’d seen bits and pieces about this book online and had half an eye on it. I was reading a review of it one day that opened up by saying it was ‘odd’ and ‘dark’…….case closed. I knew I had to get my hands on it.
This was a ‘lockdown’ purchase for me. Which basically just means me using the lockdown of the country as an excuse to buy books a plenty! I started it as soon as it arrived because I was in the mood for dark…..glutton for punishment.
The Discomfort Of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is translated from the Dutch and tells the story of our ten year old protagonist Jas and her family who live on a dairy farm. When tragedy strikes and Jas loses her older brother to a terrible accident (not a spoiler, this happens at the start of the book) her life and her family dynamic totally changes, leaving her and her siblings struggling to grow up.
Her mother is devastated by the loss of her son and Jas feels a certain guilt too surrounding someone thoughts she had about him on the day he died. Her mother retreats into herself and begins to limit her food intake, cultivating a serious eating disorder. Her father struggles with bringing up his remaining three children whilst battling issues with the dairy farm and his precious herd and livelihood.
Jas, her older brother and younger sister are pretty much left to navigate their lives themselves without much parental support. They have no support with their own grief and are sidelined whilst their parents drift further and further apart. Jas is desperate to bring her parents back together and unite them again and in her own childish ways feels like she can instigate this and life will somehow improve.
This is very much a coming of age story against the backdrop of grief and it’s intrinsic effects on a whole family unit. It is extremely dark but is shot through with a wry childish humour courtesy of Jas. There are some extremely uncomfortable issues discussed in this book and in the interests of trigger warnings I have to say there is an element of incest. It is viewed through the childish eyes of Jas our narrator, which makes it all the more uncomfortable. I feel it’s only fair to give you that warning.
There is a lot of unpleasant imagery in this book. There is a huge focus on body parts, particularly the bottom, be that bovine or human! Infact when reading it I tweeted this and without stating specifically what the book was, quite a few people knew straight away what it was!:
It’s difficult to say I ‘enjoyed’ this book but I did race through it. A sure sign I’m enjoying a book obviously. I have sat and thought about who I would recommend it to and it’s tricky! It’s by no means a walk in the park! If you’re a fan of dark stories, unusual and compelling child narrators and are ok with animal cruelty/incest and other uncomfortable subject matters I would say give it a whirl!
For sure it has some beautiful writing. I even went back over a few paragraphs and read them again. There was one particular section relating to grief that rang so true with my own experiences that it nearly took my breath away.
Listen, is it a perfect book? No. Did I ‘enjoy’ reading it? Yes! I would maybe issue an ‘approach with caution’ warning but would say give it a try and see for yourself……oh and brace yourself for the darkest of dark endings!
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx